Gawker Media is the latest to feel the legal wrath of former interns.
On Friday, the digital publishing outfit was hit with labor claims in New York federal court by three former interns who say they worked on the New York company’s blogs but weren’t “paid a single cent.”
The latest lawsuit comes after a decision by a New York judge that held that Fox Searchlight had improperly classified two interns — Alex Footman and Eric Glatt — working on the film Black Swan. The judge also certified a class action over corporate internships at the Fox Entertainment Group.
Other lawsuits haven’t been as successful. One judge refused to certify a class action some 3,000 fashion magazine interns working at Hearst.
But in the wake of the Glatt decision, interns seem emboldened on the labor front. In the past week, there was one lawsuit against Conde Nast and another against Warner Music. The actions have prompted concern among film and TV production companies.
The latest case against Gawker for allegedly violating minimum wage standards is also worth noting for the inclusion of founder Nick Denton as a named defendant.
According to the complaint, which was obtained by Bloomberg, “Gawker employs numerous other ‘interns’ in the same way, paying them nothing or underpaying them and utilizing their services to publish its content on the Internet, an enterprise that generates significant amounts of revenue for Gawker.”
In analyzing the claims, the judge will likely attempt to determine whether there’s grounds to proceed as a class action and examine whether Gawker was the “employer,” as that term is defined in the Fair Standards Labor Act.
The Department of Labor has laid out six criteria for determining whether an internship falls under an exclusion for pay. These factors include whether the internship is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment, whether it is for the benefit of the intern, whether the intern displaces regular employees, whether the employer derives immediate advantage, whether the intern isn’t necessarily entitled to a job after the conclusion of the internship, and the understanding about no entitlement to wages.
Bloomberg reports that the interns in this case say they performed tasks that included writing, researching, editing, promoting articles on social media and moderating comment forums.
Gawker says that it hasn’t been served yet and declined comment at this time.
In reporting on the internship lawsuits in the past, Gawker hasn’t been entirely kind to those who are doing the suing. For example, at the time that Glatt and Footman initially filed their lawsuit against Fox Searchlight, the blog had a somewhat snarky post entitled “Ungrateful Interns Sue Over Privilege of Fetching Natalie Portman’s Coffee.”
In January, Gawker posted a note saying the website was looking to hire editorial fellows for its New York office, with the job being described as an entry level position as a paid, hourly employee.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @eriqgardner